December 13 marks a very special day in the Swedish advent calendar. It’s the day everyone gathers to celebrate the wonderful tradition of Lucia. Named after the martyr saint Lucia, the celebration marks the shortest day of the year in the advent season. A little different to the hot summer nights of the Southern Hemisphere – where we tend to be outdoors enjoying the weather – in Sweden, the long dark winter nights are the perfect time for getting family and friends together at home.
Due to the long, dark days, this tradition is about celebrating light, warmth and togetherness, with candles playing a large part. Children decorate a crown of candles and offer coffee, Lussebullar (Saffron Buns) and Pepparkakor (Swedish Gingerbread) to those watching. Everyone gathers around to enjoy this special moment together – the perfect way to bring light and warmth into the home.
To help you bring a touch of this beautiful festive tradition to your advent season, we thought we’d share our tasty Lussebullar (Saffron Bun) recipe. Don’t forget to pair your Lussebullar with a warm cup of tea or coffee and any other festive treats, such as Pepparkakor (Swedish Gingerbread) you’d like to serve during this time of celebration and love.
Here’s how to make yours…
- 300ml / 1 cup whole milk
- ½ g pack saffron
- 75g / half cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 500g / 1 lb strong white bread flour
- 100g / half cup golden caster sugar
- 7g sachet fast-action yeast
- 1 large egg, beaten, plus extra for egg wash
- a little oil, for greasing
- 24 currants
Use a pestle and mortar to grind the saffron to a fine power and add it to a saucepan with the milk and butter. Steam gently until combined then set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, leaving a well in the middle to add the milk mixture along with the egg. Mix together and spend 10 minutes kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. Set the bowl aside in a warm place like an airing cupboard or by the fireplace so that the mixture can rise. This should take around an hour. It’s really important that the dough doubles, so don’t be afraid to leave it even longer if necessary.
When risen, knock back the dough and divide into 12 equal portions. Cover the pieces you’re not shaping so they don’t dry out. Create the s shapes with the mixture and place on a lined baking sheet. Next heat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and while it heats up, let the buns prove for a second time until they double in size. Alternatively, you can choose to leave them overnight in the refrigerator if you prefer.
When ready to bake, brush the buns with beaten egg and press a currant into the centre of each spiral. Put the trays in the oven and bake for around 15 mins. Allow to cool before serving. These are best eaten on the day they are made but will keep for a couple of days.